Hotel_Angeleno.jpgWe Santa Barbarans just love dogging our
Angeleno neighbors to the south. But as much as we disdain their
traffic, scold their smog, and try to hold their sprawling ways at
bay, there comes a time when a weekend trip to Los Angeles beckons.
Whether to indulge in big city music, art, and dining or just to
experience a more electric, metropolitan vibe, we Santa Barbarans
often find ourselves traveling south for a City of Angels

Last fall, the L.A. bug was itchin’, and a Frank Black Friday
night concert at the House of Blues on Sunset Drive in Hollywood
seemed like the ideal scratch. Toss in a romantic evening with my
fiancée the following night at the new Hotel Angeleno at Sunset and
the 405, and my latest L.A. escape was cruising down 101 at full

Rockin’ the Riot Hyatt

After enduring the predictable Friday afternoon traffic, we
pulled into the parking lot of the Hyatt West Hollywood on the
Sunset Strip at around 7 p.m. On my last visit to this famed rock
’n’ roll hotel — advertised proudly as The Riot House or, my
preferred nickname, the Riot Hyatt — I’d gotten a deal on a
10th-floor corner “conference suite” on the hotel’s vibrant
strip-side. (The deal was because it had cots instead of beds.)

This time around, I requested a similar corner room but with the
adjoining bedroom so we could party and sleep comfortably. It
worked perfectly: As the wet bar was lavished with ample
pre-concert attention, the conference room-sized table and balcony
overlooking all of L.A. — from the nearby Argus Hotel to the
twinkling lights of downtown — played party central. Those who
wanted to crash early could do so in the two-bed guestroom.

After years of reckless raging in its suites and hallways by the
biggest partiers in history — from Jim Morrison to Johnny
Depp — the Riot Hyatt is currently undergoing a $20 million
remodeling, which will be finished in December 2007. Due to its
central location across the street from the House of Blues and with
a fast cab ride to every cool club in town, the remodeled Riot
Hyatt — which also features a breathtaking rooftop pool and fancy
eatery called simply The Restaurant — will soon be the place for
all types of visitors to enjoy, not just those of us in town to let

Following an epic Frank Black concert and VIP post-party in the
House of Blues’ exclusive Foundation Room, the next morning we were
left with a perplexing problem: where to eat on Saturday morning in
L.A. where there’s not a stomach-churning wait. Miraculously, the
Saddle Ranch next door — known more for bull-riding and
flame-broiled steaks — had recently started serving breakfast, so
we walked in, sat down, and ordered up grub. It wasn’t the tastiest
breakfast on record, but it was cheap and fast.

Introducing Hotel Angeleno

For Saturday night, I’d booked a room for my fiancée and me at
the Hotel Angeleno, which opened at the corner of the 405 and
Sunset Boulevard in February 2006. Chicly modern yet affordable — a
basic king bedroom with balcony on the weekend starts around
$209 — the Hotel Angeleno is the latest “luxury boutique” hotel
from the Joie de Vivre chain, which was founded in 1987 by
26-year-old Chip Conley when he aimed San Francisco’s Phoenix Hotel
squarely at the younger, hipper market. Nearly 20 years and 32
hotels later, Conley’s company, which spent six months remodeling
this landmark circular building from a lackluster Holiday Inn into
the comfortably cool Angeleno, continues to fuel those who desire a
trendy yet accessible niche in accommodations.

Just one look at the exterior of the Angeleno — where purple,
blue, and green lights battle to illuminate the 16-floor-tall
walls — and it’s clear the hip factor is high. Inside, the décor of
the wedge-shaped rooms is “understated modern,” which is to say
earthy hues of brown, grey, tan, white, and dark green, angular but
cozy furniture, flatscreen TVs, and original artwork. A meander
through the hotel also revealed a fireplace next to the
pool — where swimmers and loungers get an up-close view of the
hotel’s changing neon lights — as well as a small café for quick

But best of all is the top floor. That’s where the restaurant
West lives, and it serves up scrumptious steaks, fine wines, and
creative cocktails to anyone wishing to dine above L.A.’s main
artery, the 405. We got a seat on the window, and indulged in wine
(a 2003 Valpolicella from Palazzo della Torre Veronese Allegrini);
appetizers (grilled fennel with parmesan; baby artichoke with
aioli, lemon, and garlic; rustic bread with aged cheese, olives,
and herbed oil); main courses (ahi steak with smoked paprika rub
and faro salad; filet mignon with black pepper crust; Barolo
reduction, gorgonzola butter, béarnaise aioli, and pecorino-topped
asparagus); and perhaps the most wondrous dessert on the planet
(frozen peanut butter cup served with toasted marshmallows and
teeny tiny maltballs).

Come check-out time the next morning, which we followed with a
visit to the super-close Getty Center, we were both set on
converting everything we owned to “understated modern” and eating
Florentine steaks and micro-maltballs every evening. But other than
that, our L.A. itch had been sufficiently scratched for the time


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